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Fishermen eagerly await safe ice on area lakes

Anglers in the Bemidji area are still waiting for colder weather to set the ice on the shallow lakes and freeze the rest of the deep lakes.

There were a few anglers out in boats on Lake Bemidji this past week, which is usually one of the last lakes in the area to freeze.

There have been a few anglers out on the ice but with frequent daily high temperatures above freezing most anglers are waiting for a cold snap to add a few more inches of ice before heading out on the lakes.

Some anglers have been heading north to fish Upper Red Lake and Lake of the Woods, while they wait for the lakes closer to home to freeze.

Most anglers have been walking out to the shoreline break on the east and north shore of Upper Red Lake and along the south shore of Lake of the Woods. Both lakes have between four and six inches of ice.

The best walleye action has been in the mornings and evenings in five to eight feet of water on Upper Red Lake and between 10 and 14 feet of water on Lake of the Woods. Both lakes have stained water, which usually helps the day bite for walleyes.

Jigging spoons tipped with a minnow head have been the hot bait for walleyes, with anglers using dead sticks with a bobber and live minnow on their second rod.

The best colors for walleyes in stained lakes are usually metallic gold or glow patterns in green, pink or orange. Jigging spoons with rattles can also be effective in helping to pull in active walleyes from a greater distance under the ice.

Jigging rods are like diving boards - they need the proper stiffness to give the lure (and divers) the right amount of bounce. Too soft of a ro tip will sag under the weight of the jigging spoon and won't properly transmit all of the subtle jigging moves anglers make to try and finesse walleyes into biting.

Too soft of a rod tip on a jigging rod also doesn't give anglers the proper hook setting power. When using jigging spoons anglers need to set the hook lightning fast with some punch when they get a bite.

Before the days of technique specific ice fishing rods some very good anglers used a wood stick for a jigging rod and caught lots of walleyes.

The wood jigging rods would have two wooden pegs on the side to wrap line around and a hole on the end of the stick for the line to go through. Most anglers would use braided line with about 20 inches of 10-pound test mono for a leader.

Anglers would be able to feel the bites without any problem because of the low stretch braided line and the stiffness of the stick would help anglers get a good hook set. Anglers would hand line the walleyes onto the ice after they hooked a fish.

Ice fishing has come a long way since then and it continues to see continued growth as a sector of the fishing industry.

Anglers can see most of the new products in ice fishing in one location Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the River Center (next to the Xcel Center) in St. Paul for the 19th annual Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show.

There will be about 170 exhibits at the show with companies displaying their products and many of their pro-staff on site to talk ice fishing and help customers. There are also many resorts at the ice show booking vacations for this winter and next summer.

This is a great opportunity to see and purchase many of the new products in ice fishing. Most companies have their best selection and best deals of the year at the show, especially for ice houses, electronics, outdoor clothing and other high-end items.

Anglers can attend seminars that are running all day and meet many of the top names in ice fishing. Readers of this column can look for me in booth #143 most of the weekend, so stop in and say hi.

Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at